Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leon, Cafe de Te in Dublin

If this looks like a content crowd to you, they are. Although the sugar rush should have thrown them into a frenzy by the time this photo was taken, tea time is a civilized time in both Britain and Ireland, so they maintain their decorum. This tea shop was such a treat we visited it twice on this trip.

If Leon is not owned by the French, it should be. The pastries were superior to many we had tasted in Ireland, and the coffee was superb. These photos should attest to the quality of the sweets on offer and don't need my comments to enhance them, but I have to add that the service was excellent and it was quite nice to hear French accents from several of the employees.

Plating was on par with many a fine restaurant presentation and each pot of tea or cup of coffee came with a small pyramid of chocolate, either white or dark. The napoleons were perfect in every way with flaky baked portions and creamy fillings. The lemon tart was a citrus dream for your taste buds.

This cafe makes a coffee or tea break seem necessary rather than elective. Each pot of tea included enough water for two very full cups and the staff was never far if one needed more cream. All in all this was a wonderful find in downtown Dublin and gets a thumbs up from me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Leo Burdocks, Dublin's Best Chippery

Thanks to the Knopf Map Guide to Dublin, we made the acquaintance of Leo Burdock, at least we were acquainted with his two chipperies in Dublin. It's easy to see why this is a popular place, frequented by celebrities (whose names appear on a list posted on the wall) and locals alike. The fish is cooked to perfection, the large portions are reasonably priced, and they serve them with good quality malt vinegar. The operation itself is efficient with a limited menu, and lightening speed. The North Liffey location had a few counters and stools, but this is primarily a take out place with patrons coming and going in droves.

Mon-Sat noon-midnight; Sun 4pm-midnight
2 Werburgh Street, Dublin, 8
Phone: +353 (0)1 454 0306

Bull and Castle Gastro Pub

We were on our way to Leo Burdock's to try what is tauted to be the best fish and chips in Dublin, but discovered it was just for takeout. Luckily we had passed the Bull and Castle on the same block, so we doubled back and discovered "gastro pub" dining. The restaurant is located across the street from Christ Church Cathedral, so it's easy to find.

Dark and moody describes the pub as well as the Guinness that flowed freely, but the flavors were brighter. The smoked salmon plate (8.2 euros) was "brilliant" as the British would say and well worth the price even with a flagging dollar. It was served with traditional "brown bread" and a small salad.

Speaking of salads, the one in the photograph above was called a Cesar (5.5 euros), but bore no resemblance to what we know as a Cesar salad, except for the croutons. It was dressed with a ranch style dressing and included carrots and ham (bacon on the menu). The fish and chips were over battered, over fried, and over priced (14.25 euros) providing a disappointing entree, although they still tasted good after a long day of discovering Dublin.

On the other hand, the Beef & Guinness Pie was the clear winner, even at 12.5 euros. covered in a phyllo crust the beef stew beneath was rich and satisfying with none of the characteristic bitterness of Guinness. The chive mashed potatoes were delicious mixed with the abundant gravy of the pie.
The Bailey's Panna Cotta was a nice Irish twist on an old Italian favorite and I'd order it again, even though the taste of Bailey's Irish Cream did not predominate as I hoped it would. Criticism aside, I would go to this restaurant again as it had a nice broad range of offerings that were traditionally Irish.
5 - 7 Lord Edward Street
Christchurch Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 475 1122
Fax: +353 (0)1 478 0663

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Silver Fox in Killarney

Above the pub called O'Riain's (perhaps at this writing, the Corkery Pub) on Main Street sits what must be the best restaurant in Killarney. It's a hidden gem that is entered through the pub, so I suspect many people miss it completely. Sophisticated and inventive would be a good description of the menu items. My guess is that the locals come here for special occasions and if I were local, I'd look for as many special occasions as I could find.
Bread is just the best thing on any table in Ireland, they have such a great skill at making wholesome bread. This was served with butter and jam and would have made a splendid dessert if we hadn't gobbled it up before the first course. Foie Gras, who could resist that as a meal in itself? No one at our table. It was served over French flageolet beans with a nice, though unidentifiable sauce.
Venison is one of my favorite game meats and although I order it when I get the opportunity, that doesn't seem often enough. This portion was very generous and also very tender, cooked to a medium rare. The red currants made a very nice enhancement to this dish and added a a welcomed sweetness to the richness of the meat.
It was so nice to receive our vegetable side dishes literally on the side in a separate dish, so the sauces of the entrees couldn't interfere with their natural flavors. They were plain and boiled or perhaps steamed but the potato, rutabaga carrots, green beans and broccoli were very good and tender, but not overdone. The Irish version of a Chocolate Sundae worked well for me.
66 High Street
Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Lohan's in Salthill, Galway

If you're ever looking for casual and traditional dining in Galway, Lohan's can accommodate you. Located in the Salthill suburb of Galway, it presents a much quieter version of big city life. A family friendly place, it dishes up fresh, locally caught fish and shellfish. Although it has a bar, it is not a pub and the quality of the food shows that the restaurant is their primary business. Waitstaff was friendly and very helpful and patient with those of us unfamiliar with some traditional Irish dishes.

Our first courses consisted of smoked Irish salmon and Galway Bay mussels in a wine sauce. Both portions were generous and quite good with moderate prices (under 7 euros). Either would have made a satisfying lunch selection.
Bacon and Cabbage (9.95 euros) served with mashed potatoes, cabbage and a parsley sauce without a speck of parsley to be seen, was a total surprise. I ordered it because something told me that this was what the Irish-American dish of corned beef and cabbage was originally based upon. Close but no cigar. The bacon would be described as ham to anyone living in the U.S. The cabbage was very dark compared to what we're accustomed to, but more flavorful. The portions of potato and ham were so large, they couldn't be finished at one sitting, so this was a great value meal. the sauce in all its blandness detracted from the dish. I couldn't help but think that a rich onion sauce may have been a better fit.

Beef and Guinness Stew (10.95 euros) served with mashed potatoes and "mushy peas" (this is a style, not a criticism) was also a good value and very filling meal. The Guinness creates a rich depth to the flavor of the beef. Several Irish cookbooks that I've seen offer recipes for this and it would be a worthwhile dish to try and duplicate. All in all, this was a decent restaurant and a great place to relax after a hectic day of traveling. There is a boardwalk along Galway Bay just across the street.

232-234 Upper Salthill
091 522 696